They say you can tell a lot about a man by the books he reads. If literature serves as conversation between reader and writer, then your reading choices are the company you keep, the discussions you decide to take up, the thoughts you like to ponder over. Oprah, an anti-discrimination feminist if ever there was one, counts The Colour Purple as one of her favourites, Madonna relished Mario Vargas Lllosa’s The Bad Girl, and Mark Chapman famously clutched a copy of The Catcher in the Rye as he gunned down John Lennon. It is no wonder that bookshelves – a catalogue of life choices – often come to be one’s most intimate possessions, almost as sacred as the sanctum sanctorum in a Brahmin household.
I’ve found that once you are past the Enid Blyton – Nancy Drew/ Hardy Boys – John Grisham set texts of your early reading career, your company on the bus ride home is far more discerningly selected. Forgive me for nudging you down this dangerously nostalgic path, but I find exploring the linkages between where you have been in your personal life and your literary life an exercise worth undertaking. And the deeper you dig, the further you go in retracing this trajectory, the more likely you are to come across landmark moments. These were the points in time when a book took the driver’s seat, dictating the shape your personality took far more than your personality dictated the book you were reading.